November 28th 2012
archived under: Family Life

Swaddling is one of those controversial parenting topics. Some people are SUPER PRO SWADDLING because newborn babies like to feel secure, like they were in the womb, and load up the swaddling blankets so baby will stay warm. Other people are SUPER ANTI SWADDLING because baby can feel secure against mama’s chest (babywearing to the rescue!) and skin-to-skin contact is the best way to regulate a newborn’s temperature. Swaddling can also interfere with nursing, because babies use their hands and arms to find the nipple, knead the breast, and so forth. Babies also suck on their hands as an early hunger signal, but you’ll miss it if they’re swaddled.

I’m kind of in the middle… I don’t love swaddling, and wish I could get away with never swaddling my babies, but both of mine really seem to like it and/or need it. Anneliese couldn’t ever “transfer” (if she fell asleep in my arms, and I needed to put her down somewhere else) without being swaddled. Ever. Her startle reflex was super-strong and her arms would flail and wake her up. Every time. So I swaddled her out of necessity, for sleep. It was the only way I could get her to sleep away from my body during any part of the day or night.

Joseph started out without a swaddle and I thought he would miraculously never need to be wrapped up tightly. Then we had a swaddling period where no matter what, if he wasn’t swaddled, he would only sleep for about 10 minutes. But if he was swaddled he would have a nice long nap and then wake up refreshed. I decided to wean him from swaddling when he started rolling over, and he let go of it really easily, unlike Anneliese who had a more difficult transition. Then he started trying to crawl. And without a swaddle, he was up on all fours, rocking, trying to propel himself forward, even if he was completely exhausted. As soon as I would swaddle him though, he would breathe a sigh of relief, and his whole body would relax.

Just when I started to think about re-weaning him from it (after he mastered crawling), the same thing is happening because he is trying to pull up on everything. He is in constant motion and literally cannot sleep…Babywearing naps happen, and naps in the car, but other than that, he really needs to be swaddled to sleep, still. I’ll keep testing whether or not he’s ready to let go of it, but for now, that’s what we’re doing.

Meanwhile, Anneliese, my 2 year old, STILL loves to be “tucked in” tightly all around her body. If I don’t tuck the blanket super-tightly under her in a certain spot, she will demand that I do so. “Tuck my knee! Tuck my yeg! Tuck my other yeg! Tuck my feet! Tuck my shoulders! Tuck my armbs!” Everything must be tucked, like a gigantic toddler swaddle.

My bottom line is… you do what you gotta do, sometimes. I would put myself more in the anti-swaddle camp, but for a sanity-saving tool? I’ll take what I can get. How do you feel about swaddling new babies?

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